This past Thanksgiving I went to Utah to be with family and one of the courses we had was a Turducken. For those of you that do not know what that is, it is a boneless turkey stuffed with a boneless duck and then a boneless chicken. In between each bird is a layer of sausage. The term for this is engastration. Its current form was first created in 1985 at Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana, so you can imagine that the sausage was pretty spicy. It was popularized with the nation by Paul Prudhomme on his television show.
In 2014 the word Turducken was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but stuffing one animal inside another has been around since Roman times. The Romans had a dish that was cow, stuffed with a pig, stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken. Other old recipes included one with 16 birds; another contained three geese, three turkeys, seven hares, twelve partridges, a ham and a leg of veal; and another older recipe included turkey, goose, fowl, partridge and pigeon. The most bizarre recipe I found is from Greenland called Kiviak, in which a seal is stuffed with as many as 500 auks (a sort of penguin-like bird) and hidden under a pile of rocks for several months before consumption. I am not trying this one.
As a chef I tried making it once but the problem is that you need to completely debone each bird, especially the inside ones. The most successful Turduckens were made by a New Orleans surgeon who used his scalpel to debone; maybe I’ll try it this way if I ever make one again. This is time consuming and not as easy as it sounds. To make a true Turducken you need to debone them in one piece without cutting through the skin. This is most important for the last layer so it holds everything in. Another problem with it is since it is solid, with no cavity, it takes a long time to cook—up to 8 hours—and due to that it is usually pretty dry.
Another problem is the number of ingredients. I looked up Paul Prudhomme’s recipe, which had 32 ingredients. To buy a Turducken, they weigh in at around 15 pounds and cost $5-8 per pound. Many of the premade ones come from Louisiana.